Blair Athol 25, 1988 (LMDW)

As per Whiskybase, there have been 44 casks of Blair Athols from 1988 released in the last three years. I guess someone acquired a huge parcel of those casks and sold them on. And given that most of the releases are from Signatory, I’d guess they’re that someone and are the source for many of the other indie releases as well. Given that there were a decent number released just last year, I suspect we’ll continue to see Blair Athol 1988s for a while.

I’ve previously reviewed three other 1988s in the 25-26 yo range. I very much liked this 25 yo from van Wees and this 26 yo from Signatory for K&L; this 26 yo—also from van Wees—I liked a bit less. The one I’m reviewing now was bottled by La Maison Du Whisky, the famed Paris whisky store. It’s part of their “Artist” series—all of which have very pretty labels. As to whether the prettiness of the labels says anything about the contents of the bottles, I don’t know; I do know the bottles are pretty expensive. I didn’t pay for a whole bottle of this one; this was part of a bottle split—which is really a very good way to try a lot more whiskies than would be feasible otherwise. Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as the others.  Continue reading

Benriach 21, “Authenticus”

Hello! This is the Benriach 21 Authenticus, one of the long line of whiskies with silly names released in the Billy Walker era at the distillery; this one was peated to boot. It was discontinued some years ago and replaced with a 25 yo. I have no idea if that 25 yo has since been replaced by a NAS whisky named Feinticus Erroneous, though I rather expect it has. I purchased this from Binny’s as well right before it went off the market and only recently got around to opening it for one of my local group’s tastings. It was a big hit there, not least for displaying certain characteristics that you may be able to discern by reading between the lines of my opaque notes below. These characteristics, surprisingly, are not noted by everyone who has reviewed it—Serge, for example, mentions them not. Michael K., on the other hand, recognizes them gleefully, and if anyone should know, it is he. (Let’s just say that he has a great enthusiasm for horticulture.) Anyway, on to the untimely review!  Continue reading

Longrow 10, 100 Proof

This is the US edition of the Longrow 10, 100 Proof. That means it was bottled at 50% rather than the 57% of the 100 Proof editions sold in the UK and Europe. There were a number of those UK and Europe releases; I’m not sure, however, if there was more than one in the US. I got this from Binny’s in the summer of 2013, and I think it might have been released a year or so previous—if you know better, please write in below. Part of the reason it has taken me so long to open the bottle is that about two years ago Michael K. and Jordan D. published negative reviews of it. As our palates usually align more than they don’t, I figured I wouldn’t care for it either and kept pushing off opening it. And then last month I was putting together a tasting for my local group featuring different flavours of peat and there was finally a reason to open it. And wouldn’t you know it, I quite liked it, as did most members of the group (who all tasted it blind). Here now are my formal notes. If you’ve tried it as well, do write in below.  Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 31, 1980 (Whisky Doris)

It was not so long ago that older Bunnahabhains of a high quality were easily found at reasonable prices from reputable bottlers. For example, at release this bottle did not cost very much more than the OB 18 yo costs now. Back then it was possible for middle-class buyers like me to purchase older whiskies and get some understanding of how maturation affects the character of whisky from a particular distillery or how the profiles of whiskies made at the same distillery in different eras vary. If I was at the point in this whisky obsession now that I was at in 2012, I would not be able to afford that experience—if I could even find it. For more in this tedious vein you might want to (re)read my post on older whisky and value in the current era and the many excellent comments on it (here). For now, however, here’s a review of a 31 yo Bunnahabhain from 1980. This was released by Whisky-Doris. I opened and finished the bottle last year and took my notes then too. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to post them. Continue reading

Lagavulin 23, 1979 (Murray McDavid)

Here’s something you don’t see everyday: an independent bottling of Lagavulin. And it’s an older Lagavulin distilled in the 1970s, no less. I didn’t even know it existed until the ever-generous Sku gave me a sample of it when we had dinner together in December. This was bottled by Murray McDavid—the indie bottling concern of Mark Reynier that was most active in the early years of Bruichladdich (though I think it’s still a going concern). This was part of their Mission series, which means they didn’t “ACE” it in a shiraz cask. Unlike some other Mission releases, it was not put out at cask strength. I guess if you get your hands on a cask of 23 yo Lagavulin you try to put out as many bottles of it as you can. Anyway, I’m very excited to taste this. I’ve not had very many Lagavulins past the age of 20; I’ve also liked most of the Mission releases I’ve tried (this Old Rhosdhu is the only one I’ve reviewed). Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Talisker 10, 2016 Release

Let’s start the month with a timeIy review. I last reviewed a Talisker 10 in July 2014 when the blog was just over a year old. That review was of a bottle from 2009 but it sparked a long discussion in the comments about the decline of the Talisker 10 in the ensuing decade. The point of contention was the question of whether reports of the decline of classic Diageo malts can be separated from whisky geeks’ negative feelings about everything else Diageo has done in that period (the move to NAS, higher prices etc. etc.). I couldn’t make any comment then on whether the Talisker 10 has in fact declined in this decade because I hadn’t tasted any released in this decade.  Well, it’s only taken me three and a half years but I now have a review of a bottle released in 2016. I opened it a couple of weeks ago for a tasting focused on peated whiskies for my local group. It placed last in terms of scores but most people liked it. I’m interested to get back into it for a review now that the bottle’s been open for a bit.  Continue reading

Dailuaine 29 (The Whisky Exchange)

No, I don’t know what’s going on in the background of this photograph either.

Here’s another whisky from a relatively obscure and unloved distillery: Dailuaine. It is located in the Speyside and is owned by (who else?) Diageo. It is one of Diageo’s workhorse distilleries, producing almost entirely for blends. As far as I know, it has only seen regular official single malt release in the Flora & Fauna series. There have been a few one-offs: for example, a Manager’s Dram release, a Rare Malts release, and then in 2015, out of the blue, a 34 yo version was included in Diageo’s Special Release slate. There haven’t been so very many indie releases either. The redoubtable Serge V. has only reviewed 52 Dailuaines. (I say “only” because he probably reviewed 52 rums this past weekend alone—I haven’t checked.)  Continue reading

Allt-a-Bhainne 16, 1995 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

I’ve only had and reviewed one other Allt-a-Bhainne. I noted in that review that I knew nothing about Allt-a-Bhainne, not even how the name is pronounced. My knowledge has since increased just a little bit. I know now that it was only founded in 1975 and that the correct pronunciation of the name is closer to “autobahn” than you might expect. I do know, however, that I quite liked the other one. That was a 21 yo bottled by Cadenhead’s. This one is a 16 yo bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Both are from bourbon casks selected by two highly reliable bottlers: that bodes well for this one as well. Let’s see if reality cooperates.

Allt-a-Bhainne 16, 1995 (53.4%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask #125284; from a sample received in a swap)  Continue reading

Four Roses Small Batch, Ltd. Ed. 2017, Al Young 50th Anniversary

Almost exactly a year after my review of the 2016 Four Roses Small Batch, Ltd. Edition, here is my review of their 2017 release. a limited edition small batch release from last year to honour the 50 years of service of brand ambassador Al Young. This is not the annual release Small Batch Ltd. Edition, which came out later that year. In that series I’ve previously reviewed the 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 releases as well; if anyone wants to send me samples of the 2011, 2015 and 2016 releases so I can round out my reviews for the decade so far, please get in touch.

Since American distilleries tell us these things I can tell you that the Al Young release was composed in the following proportions from Four Roses’ various recipes: 5% 23 yo OBSV, 25%15 yo OBSK, 50% 13 yo OESV, and 20% 12 yo OBSF. In other words, 50% high and low rye recipes (the B and E parts), 55% from mashbills using light, fruity yeast (V), 25% from a mashbill using light, spicy yeast (K), and 20% from a mashbill using herbal yeast (F). And if it had an age statement it would be a 12 yo. What does it all add up to? Let’s find out.  Continue reading

Clynelish 17, 1997 (C&S)

1997 is supposed to be the magic year for Clynelish. My last 1997 Clynelish lacked magic. It’s not the fault of that whisky: the whole magic vintage thing is a lot of bullshit. I will not bore you by going over all that again—if you’re interested you can read my views here and here. Let’s just get directly to this 17 yo from a bourbon hogshead, bottled a couple of years ago by C&S, a bottler based in Germany.

Clynelish 17, 1997 (47%;  C&S Dram Collection; bourbon hogshead #5730; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Citrus (lemon peel, orange), a faint grassiness, some brine and okay, I could be talked into a little wax. With more time there’s a biscuity/malty thing going on as well. Less grassy, more biscuity with water.  Continue reading

Arran 19, 1997 (Acorn)

On Wednesday I had a review of a bourbon cask Arran; I did not care for it overmuch. Let’s see if we can get my Arran trajectory back in a positive direction with this sherry cask release. The bottler in this case is Acorn. They are a Japanese outfit that has apparently been releasing selections since the late 1990s. I think it might only have been in the last half-decade or so though that their casks became more widely available outside Japan. Or at least that’s when I first noticed them. This profile on notes that they now have distribution in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and Japan—so still not so widely available, I guess. (, by the way, has good information on a number of independent bottlers—I’m hoping their list will slowly become more comprehensive: a number of major bottlers are not yet on it.)

This cask was released in 2016. It’s a sherry hogshead, and interestingly was not bottled at cask strength. I wonder if it was a little too unbalanced at full strength—given the greater wood contact for a sherry hogshead vs a sherry butt. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Ballechin 13, 2003

This is a distillery-only Ballechin—which is to say it is/was only available at the Edradour distillery (whose peated malt is called Ballechin, as you doubtless know). No, I did not pick it up while driving through the highlands last June. We did go very near Edradour on our way to Blair Castle but Tomatin was the only distillery in that part of the country that we stopped at, and that only for a little while. No, this is a sample from a bottle that the redoubtable Michael K. purchased at the distillery in 2016. Me, I didn’t even know that Edradour had bottled any Ballechin of this age. All I’ve had are most of the various younger, wine cask releases of yesteryear and the 10 yo that was released in 2014. Michael said in his review last year that he liked this very much at the distillery but not as much later. As you will see below, I liked it quite a bit now. I did also like the Ballechin #3, Port Cask—there seems to be something about the marriage of their peated malt and port casks that works well. Anyway, here are my notes.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1995 (SMWS 29.148)

Let’s get the year started off right with a Laphroaig. This was bottled a couple of years ago by the Scotch Malt Whisky Association and they managed to give it a less whimsical name than usual. Well, I guess “A Fantastic Fusion of Flavours” isn’t exactly restrained but at least it’s easy enough to decipher. I first tasted this at one of my friend Rich’s peat-themed whisky gatherings in St. Paul right after it was released, and when our host offered to purchase bottles from the SMWSA for anyone who wanted one, I jumped at it.

Fast forward a few years to a rough review from Michael K. on Diving for Pearls. This shook me, as Michael and I are usually not very far apart on our evaluation of whiskies. Was it possible, I wondered, that I’d over-estimated my small taste of this whisky on account of the tasting context? I opened the bottle right after reading Michael’s review and was relieved to discover I still liked it a lot. And then I realized that his notes were not actually far away from my own—it’s just that he didn’t like what it all added up to and I did. Always a good reminder: it’s not scores that matter but notes. And on that note, here are my own.  Continue reading

Chichibu Peated, 2010-2013

This turned out to be Japanese food and whisky week on the blog. I reviewed two Japanese restaurants in the Los Angeles area (Raku in West Hollywood and Osawa in Pasadena) and on Wednesday I had a review of a young Yoichi.  And now this Chichibu to close the week. Aha, you’re thinking, what about Monday, you bastard? Didn’t you review a Bowmore then? Well, joke’s on you, cynical interlocutor: Bowmore is owned by Suntory. Not so clever now, are you? Chichibu, however, is not owned by Suntory. It is to the big Japanese producers as Kilchoman is to the big Scottish producers: small, artisanal etc. I believe they started distilling in 2008, which means nothing very old has come on the market from their own spirit. This one is certainly not old. Distilled in 2010 and bottled in 2013 it’s even younger than Wednesday’s Yoichi. It’s also peated. I’m curious to see how it compares with young peated Islay malts. Let’s get right to it.  Continue reading